ListN Up: deVon Russell Gray (July 10, 2020)

ListN Up is a series of weekly artist-curated playlists. Born from a desire to keep artists sharing and connected during times of isolation, ListN Up offers an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. This series is sponsored by American Composers Forum/innova Recordings with new releases every Friday on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.

deVon Russell Gray is a polyglot organically fusing contemporary classical, jazz, hip hop, Afrofuturistic, and popular music performance practices and styles. Gray’s music takes listeners on an outermost and deeply resonant journey. He approaches newness with a refreshing and enlightening sense of mystery, wonder, and beauty.

Can I catch my fucking breath already?! No, still tense, still living in fear? Shit. Sorry. There’s still beauty. Always has been always will be.

I can imagine this place being quite nice. Quite warm, not too warm globally. I can imagine this place being full of love. Love so sweet and so thick you can float on it and through it, fully supported. That’s a taste and image of heaven to me.

Exhaled Rhyme by Vanissa Law

Take your time. I’m talking to myself mostly. Be patient. Focus on the out breath. Allow all the magic and soul possessed within to be activated and engaged. Allow for and make space for the ancestors to speak, they have wisdom to share with ears ready to hear. Can you hear me!? All I know is that I know nothing and I have a tremendous amount to learn. I don’t know anything about the artist and creator Vanissa Law, but I know this piece is a gift. That’s a great jumping off place.

Revolving – Prayer by Tigran Hamasyan

I can swim within this world Tigran builds with grace and efficiency right before our very ears and hearts. It’s immediately hypnotic and engaging, and I want more of it. Its gentleness and soft urgency propels us forward into the hazy warm light. You can pray to this. You can sway to this. You can elevate to this. I can vibe to this. I can make love to this. I can breathe—this. This wholly cool and rhythmically driving offering. Peace.

Sonare by Cenk Ergun, performed by JACK Quartet

This music is wonderful and still pretty new to me. It smacks of George Crumb’s Black Angels, but hits quite differently. This is a real one. I’m absolutely feeling this. The world can feel like this, a bit intense, sometimes a little too chaotic. But still ordered. Ya know? And if you don’t know JACK Quartet, please dive head first into their recorded works–they are phenomenal.

Life Is Just a Moment by Roy Ayers

Self-explanatory. Funky truth.

“How Slow the Wind” from Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra by Osvaldo Golijov, performed by Dawn Upshaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Dawn Upshaw is magic. Osvaldo is magic. Nuff said. These are grand humxns, and their hearts are artful. 

The Revenant Main Theme by Ryuichi Sakamoto

Disassociate the underscore from the film, and in this instance what remains is a fullness that is sumptuous heartfelt strings and organic sounds of the wind that together create an elegy for these tragically glorious times of ours. Rise up. Take this beauty and imbibe it fully.

A Sparrow Alighted upon Our Shoulder by Jóhann Jóhannsson, performed by Air Lyndhurst String Orchestra

Glad I got me to a place in time and space where this beautiful soul was offering up a set with strings and an upright piano. Every note he wrote in his all too brief time on this rock moves me. There’s simplicity, goodness, & truth to his music that resonates in my soul.

Light Body by Hanna Benn

Hanna is dope and soulful and healing. Get healed. Drink water. Love more freely. Have you ever been swaddled in velvet? You have been now. Please lay your ears on her offerings.

Simplicity, goodness, and truth by deVon Russell Gray, performed by Geoffrey Burleson and Sarah Bob

This is what I crave. First imagine it, then make it so.

Heaven Somewhere by Common & friends

This brilliant suite that ends Common’s album Electric Circus has remained with me from the moment I first laid ears upon it. I was fully ensorcelled. The magic remains.

Real Cool Killers by Harriet Tubman

This trio is badass. Their namesake was badass. This offering of theirs is, you guessed it—badass!